DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - JANUARY 10: Ernie Els of South Africa reacts to a birdie putt on the 3rd green during the first round of the Volvo Champions at Durban Country Club on January 10, 2013 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Durban – Ernie Els began his first round of 2013 in near perfect fashion as he reeled off three birdies in a row to start his title assault at the Volvo Golf Champions European Tour event on Thursday.

The Big Easy, however, was brought back to earth with a momentum-halting double-bogey five at the treacherous par-three fourth.

Els admitted his mind began to race before pulling his five-iron tee shot on the fourth.

“The first tee shot, I was thinking, this is the first tee shot of my new year,” Els said ahead of Friday's second round.

Coming into the year fresh off his first Major win in a decade, Els was eager to compete.

“Normally I'm very focused but I was actually, 'here we go, one of those moments, like let's have a good year'.

“To start the new year off with a birdie and make a long putt on the second hole, you're basically playing to the back of the cup, and I thought, here we go.

“The second you think that in this game... then you go double bogey.”

To his credit Els rallied to sign for a four-under-par 68 in the worst of the weather conditions during the first day's play.

Thai Thongchai Jaidee was three ahead on seven under, achieved in more benign conditions.

Els was pleased he was able to pick up another three shots – after the double bogey – in pouring rain and heavy winds.

“I think I knuckled down nicely,” he said.

“I had to get the ball up-and-down numerous times, so it was a very interesting round.

“It's a tough day, so I'm just pleased to be able to sit here and see what happens the next few days.”

With Els' success and experience in Links conditions, the absence of sunshine should suit the four-time Major champion.

“The wind... it makes the golf course play the way it is,” he said.

“That's why we call it 'the grand old lady.' It can be a tough golf course and if the weather conditions come, it's almost like a links course.

“When it's very calm, you can kill it and then the wind comes, but in any case, I'd like to see wind.

“I think it's going to turn.Hopefully this weather comes through. That makes the first five holes very difficult. I don't mind.” – Sapa